First Impressions Digest – Rokka no Yuusha, Shimoneta to Iu Gainen ga Sonzai Shinai Taikutsu na Sekai, Gatchaman Crowds Insight

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When you look at a batch of shows like this, the best one on screen isn’t always the best-looking one on paper.

Rokka no Yuusha – 01

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There might have been a time when I found Rokka no Yuusha engaging, but to be honest this light novel adaptation left me pretty bored.  I think my tolerance for this sort of formula has gotten a lot lower.

All the boxes are checked – country boy hero with dreams of glory, hot chicks in revealing armor, demon kings.  I go into these things with as much of an open mind as I can, and sometimes they surprise me.  But there just didn’t seem to be anything really unusual or interesting here – the whole fake hero concept really didn’t resonate.  The production values and music are fine, but that’s about all that stood out for me.  Pass.

Shimoneta to Iu Gainen ga Sonzai Shinai Taikutsu na Sekai – 01

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Here’s another LN adaptation, but I found this one to have a whole lot more going for it.  Shimoneta isn’t going to win any awards from the critics, but it’s quite fun in a determinedly stupid way, and occasionally very funny indeed.

I really like what J.C. Staff is doing lately.  Their shows have a real dash and creativity to them, and that wasn’t always the case – they’ve always been reliable for faithful adaptations, but sometimes the visuals tended to run towards the generic.  Shimoneta has an infectious lunacy about it and the way director Suzuki Youhei stages it contributes nicely to that.

Was this series written specifically in response to Ishihara and Bill 156?  I don’t know for certain but if not, it could have been.  It depicts a world where the “Law for Public Order and Morals in Healthy Child-Raising” has made Japan a preposterously repressed and sanitized place (even bad words are banned).  This is especially true of Tokioka Academy, the “most moral school in the nation”, where the students are hilariously ignorant of every biological function their hormone-infused bodies long to engage in.  Okuma Tanukichi (Kobayashi Yuusuke) is the son of a famed “pervert terrorist” who’s enrolled at Tokioka because he “admired” the student council president and chef moralist, Nishikinomiya Anna (Matsuki Miyu).

There’s some sledgehammer-subtle social commentary here, obviously, but the comedy is the star.  This dumb conceit is executed with aplomb, delivering some pretty hilarious visual and verbal comedy.  Anna’s BFF Kajou Ayame (Ishigami Shizuka) is actually terrorist “Blue Snow“, who has a flip-phone with an app that allows her to swear like a sailor on leave for three minutes a day while wearing panties on her head, and she gets the reluctant Tanukichi caught up in helping her create the SOX organization to resist the morals law. There’s also a sex-obsessed student named Fuwa Hyouka (a very funny Gotou Saori) who sees Tanukichi as the key to providing the answers she desperately seeks.

Trust me, this works a lot better than it sounds.  The ignorant students wrestling with the stuff Blue Snow shows them are truly hilarious, and the pinnacle of that comes (pun intended) when Kajou uses Fuwa’s “bodymelding” fly experiment and some impassioned acting to send their student bodies over the edge.  I also laughed very hard watching Tanukichi try to figure out Kajou’s “girls have four mouths” joke. I really have no idea if there’s more here than just zany comedy – there would need to be substantial depth if Shimoneta were evert to aspire to the heights of a thoughtful look at eroticism like R-15 – but I think there’s enough here to deliver a pretty funny comedy either way.

Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 01

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I’m not sure what I was hoping would change with Insight, but I really did want things to be different.  It really pained me that I liked the first season of Crowds as little as I did – I like Nakamura Kenji as a director very much, and his prior collaboration with Oono Toshiya produced one of my favorite series of the decade.

But struggle with Crowds I did, and mightily.  I had many and varied problems with Gatchaman Crowds – the lazy writing, the lack of discipline in the narrative, and most significantly the protagonist.  It’s no exaggeration to say that Hajime may be my least favorite main character in anime – she’s certainly the worst in any series that was otherwise good enough for it to matter.  But there’s just so much talent behind this franchise that I can’t help but hope that a miracle will happen.

So far, I’m out of luck.  There is a new character named Tsubasa (Ishihara Kaori) who, judging by the OP, may just steal some of the MC role from Hajime.  She’s annoying, but nowhere near as bad as Hajime.  But Hajime is still here, and still pure torture every time she opens her mouth.  As for the other issues, there’s no way to tell yet whether Insight will prove a tighter and more cohesive story, but based on this premiere (and the Inbound “Episode 00” that aired last week) there’s not much evidence that anything has changed.  Crowds is still all over the map, still way too loud, and the characters smile so much I want to slap them across the face with a fish like Michael Palin.

Honestly, I just don’t see any way I can blog Insight – there’s just so much about this franchise that I really dislike.  It’s shocking to me that Nakamura and Oono can be this mediocre, and that viewers actually seem to prefer that mediocrity to Tsuritama.  Maybe if there were lesser talents involved I’d be holding Gatchaman to lower standards, but if that were the case the show isn’t nearly good enough to have kept me interested anyway.



  1. P

    About Shimoneta, I find the level of censorship quite ironic… every "dirty" word is ***'ed and there is almost no fan service. But well… next week is To Love-Ru's great return :p

  2. S

    At least part of the censorship was part of the joke though… you don't really need to hear/read it to understand what they're saying and the point is also it's still incredibly juvenile, silly humour. I appreciate that while being a series about dirty jokes the dirty jokes themselves aren't the source of the humour (nor is the fanservice). It basically all rides on that silly disconnect between reality and the idealized "healthy" environment these kids are grown in. It's nothing too serious but it's actually doing satire, not ecchi for its own sake.

  3. F

    I agree with Rokka no Yuusha, it's been done to death, but I'm also not a fan of Shimoneta's setting and premise (same way I don't really like Charlotte's or Plastic Memories). And well since It's a second season of Gatchaman Crowds I'll watch it. DBZ was fun though.

  4. P

    Rokka no Yuusha has some nice art directions (and great action sequences). I also love how the production team bases the design on Aztec rather than the usual European setting. It is such a pity that the story is so generic, and pretty much half of the first ep is exposition… I am giving the series another episode before I make my decision though.

    Shimoneta is really juvenile, and the whole 'woman-fakes-being-molest' scene has an unfortunate implication. However, the first did make me laugh out loud a couple of times, so the humour works for me. Also, I am weirdly touched by Ayame when she declares that she would rather change the world than represses herself. I came from a conservative culture that gets really heavy-handed with censorship so her ideal does resonate with me. I can't believe I am developing a weird soft spot for this series.

  5. I noticed that Aztec look too – it might have been the most distinctive thing in the episode. It was almost as if we were watching a ritual sacrifice.

    Shimoneta is juvenile, but it's juvenile for a point I think – in the same way R-15 is.

  6. S

    I don't think the bit with the woman on the train is all that bad in its intentions. I saw it mostly as yet another consequence of the hypocrisy of the system – where one can't even say "he touched my ass!" without fear of consequence, but the paranoia is so strong a simple suspicion would be enough to ruin a person entirely, leading to episodes like the attempted rip-off. It's not meant to be a commentary on what women do in OUR world. After all, a girl being groped by some sleazebag on the train is way more common as an anime trope (look no further than Ore Monogatari) and it alone hardly is the mark of a show that will not indulge in some sort of mysoginy later down the line.

    From a satyrical point of view, Shimoneta drew home some pretty funny jabs, especially the part about the ignorance it fosters in the young (I'd like the character of the science-minded girl who enquiries in matters of sex much more if she wasn't so often used for some kind of groping/falling on the MC jokes). And I agree with Enzo that the juvenile humour is purposeful – it's not meant to be funny in itself, the joke is how hilariously clueless and random even the supposedly "pervert terrorist" Blue Snow is about the whole thing. She's the other end of the spectrum, relishing in dirty jokes without even thinking about their meaning just for the sake of releasing her tension at feeling so oppressed.

    Though my favourite line has to be the one where Blue Snow proudly claims that her father has been framed and is innocent of having sex with a high school girl… because he's into MILFs XD.

    (by the way, Punchline opened last season with cat sex. Now we have fly sex in this. Do I spot a trend?)

  7. It's funny, Simone – I very nearly opened with a line about that Punchline thing, but I couldn't quite figure out how I wanted to say it…

  8. S

    You know what they say, great minds think alike XD.

  9. N

    You should try taking another look at Rokka no Yuusha, the plot actually switches away from the generic x heroes fight demon king bullshit after a few eps

    Spoilers: In ep 4, when all the Braves finally meet up at a temple, there's 7 of them, and they end up trapped in the area. Pretty much the rest of the season dumps the demon-fighting thing for a mystery-thriller trying to figure out which one's the fake who trapped them, while exploring the character's backstories and motivations.

  10. D

    Gatchaman is not an anime you can watch without engaging your thought process. The writing is not lazy (in fact it's quite detailed, but you have to think of it with accordance to the other episodes), and well for Hajime…you just have to get the dark humor she has before getting to know her 😀 So I guess Gatchaman is more of a novel-ish anime than a regular switch-off-and-enjoy anime.

  11. A

    Just finished the first episode of Rokka no Yuusha, and I really, REALLY can't understand your review about it.
    I mean, it's very possible to not like it (tastes aren't universal), and it's very possible it'll be a big disappointment or ends up in generic clichés and so on later. But seeing critics about "formulaic" and "boxes checked" are just mind-boggling.

    The mesoamerican setting is probably the least (or second least, after subsaharan Africa one) used ever, the production values are absolutely gorgeous, and the cinematic aspects are just brilliant (the montage in the prison showing passage of time is superb ; the camera work while the hero was talking to the "maid" was also rather inventive). The action scenes were fast and well-done, and managed to make the guy look very strong while still being rather realistic (the guy is nimble and skilled, but not ridiculously strong and can be overpowered).

    I could understand "I just don't like it". I could understand critics over the fact that the entire episode is just exposition, or that the characters are not (not yet at least) developped.
    But I just can't understand "it's formulaic and there is nothing unusual or interesting about it". It's just… so completely the opposite of what I'm seeing.

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